MLK Day is a day designed to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., a Civil Rights leader who preached nonviolence, equality among all races and love. He risked (and gave) his life and freedom for future African Americans to have a better life than he and his brothers and sisters of his generation had.
Every year, the NBA rolls out a full slate of games to honor Martin Luther King Jr. along with inspirational messages to young fans about the importance of MLK Day.
This year, there were nine games played with a matchup between the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers postponed. Here we will highlight top NBA players from each game on the holiday slate.
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Orlando Magic 84 vs New York Knicks 91
Aaron Gordon, forward, Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon put up a monster stat line, finishing with 18 points, 17 rebounds, nine assists and two blocks. Seven of Gordon’s 17 rebounds in the game were offensive rebounds. He fell an assist short of his first triple-double this season and the second of his career.
Nikola Vucevic, Center, Orlando Magic
Nikola Vucevic was the one source for a mix of efficiency and scoring in the game for the Magic as he scored 24 points on 63% shooting along with 14 rebounds and two blocks. The two other Magic players to score in double figures (Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross) combined to shoot 32% from the field.
Julius Randle, forward, New York Knicks
The list of potential candidates for the Most Improved Player award so far this season is hefty to say the least. One of those names on the list is Julius Randle, who continued to stake his claim for the award in this game against the Magic. While inefficient shooting 26% from the field, he did finish the game with 21 points and 17 rebounds. He scored nine points in the fourth quarter with seven points coming from the free throw line.
RJ Barrett, wing, New York Knicks
RJ Barrett continued his stellar start to his sophomore season, scoring 22 points with 10 rebounds and four assists. In just 15 games, Barrett already has six 20-point games after doing so 13 times in 56 outings as a rookie last season.
Minnesota Timberwolves 97 vs Atlanta Hawks 108
D’Angelo Russell, guard, Minnesota Timberwolves
With Karl-Anthony Towns out for the Timberwolves after testing positive for COVID-19, D’Angelo Russell was the only source for efficient offense for Minnesota in its game against the Hawks. He finished with 32 points on 11-of-22 from the field, making six three-pointers adding seven assists and four steals. This included scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Hawks starting lineup
It’s only right that the entire Hawks’ starting lineup get recognition for being the top performer. Each player scored 15 points or more, contributing 100 of the team’s 108 points. That included 48 of the team’s 50 points in the second half. In addition to this, Trae Young and Clint Capela each recorded double-doubles.
Portland Trail Blazers 104 vs San Antonio Spurs 125
Damian Lillard, guard, Portland Trail Blazers
Not much to say here as we grow to expect games like these from Damian Lillard. He finished with 35 points and six assists, scoring 12 points in the third quarter.
Rodney Hood, guard, Portland Trail Blazers
With CJ McCollum out for the Blazers, it was Rodney Hood who stepped up in his absence in the starting lineup. Hood came into the game averaging less than two points per game after missing much of the previous season with a torn left Achilles. He made the most of the opportunity, finishing with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting while scoring 13 points in the first half.
DeMar DeRozan, guard, San Antonio Spurs
While LaMarcus Aldridge had a solid game for the Spurs with 22 points, DeRozan had a much more well-rounded game for his team. He finished with 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting with 11 assists, six rebounds and two steals. He connected on eight of his team’s 14 free throws in the game
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Patty Mills/Rudy Gay, San Antonio Spurs
Patty Mills and Rudy Gay came off the bench for the Spurs playing a huge role in their team’s blowout win. Mills finished with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting while Rudy Gay had 21 points and seven rebounds. They each made five three-pointers in the game with Mills making three in the first half and Gay making four in the second half.
Phoenix Suns 104 vs Memphis Grizzlies 108
Deandre Ayton, center, Phoenix Suns
Taking the floor for the first time in an entire week after three of the Suns’ games were cancelled, Deandre Ayton came back and had what was arguably his best game so far this season. Ayton was the leading score in the game, finishing with 18 points along with 16 rebounds and three assists.
Ja Morant/ Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke each scored 17 points in the game with Clarke shooting 8-of-13 from the field and Morant shooting 5-of-10. Morant finished with a double-double adding 10 assists.
The Grizzlies bench played a huge role in their won over the Suns with their second unit tallying 49 points in the game. Grayson Allen led the bench in scoring with 16 points along with six rebounds and three assists. He was one of three bench players for the Grizzlies to score in double figures with Tyus Jones and Desmond Bane contributing 11 points and 10 points respectively.
Milwaukee Bucks 123 vs Brooklyn Nets 125
Milwaukee Bucks Big 3
When I say Bucks Big 3, I am referring their usual suspects Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. The reigning MVP had his usual all-around performance with 34 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Khris Middleton had 25 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals and Jrue Holiday finished with 22 points, six assists and four rebounds. Each player shot 50% from the field.
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James Harden and Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
The Nets’ starters all played fantastic with a highly efficient performance that saw all but one of them shoot over 50% from the field. James Harden led the team with 34 points, 12 assists and six rebounds followed by Kevin Durant who had 30 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Dallas Mavericks 93 vs Toronto Raptors 116
Kristaps Porzingis, forward, Dallas Mavericks
It was a rough game for the Mavs that most notably saw Tim Hardaway Jr. go scoreless while shooting 0-of-12 from the field. Despite this, Kristaps Porzingis played well. He scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds with 14 points coming in the first half.
James Johnson/Trey Burke, Dallas Mavericks
Off the bench, James Johnson and Trey Burke did their best to give their chance to keep their team in the game with both players scoring in double figures. Burke finished with 17 points scoring 13 points in the second half while Johnson finished with 15 points and six rebounds.
Kyle Lowry, guard, Toronto Raptors
In what has been a rough start to the season for the Raptors so far, Kyle Lowry did his best to will his team to a victory against the Mavericks. He finished 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He scored 12 of his 23 points in the third quarter, shooting a perfect 4-of-4 from the field in the period.
Chris Boucher/Norman Powell, Toronto Raptors
Like Johnson and Burke for the Mavs, Boucher and Powell also scored in double figures for their team off the bench. Boucher recorded his fourth straight 20-point game, dropping 21 points in the game on 8-of-12 shooting along with 10 rebounds and three blocks. Meanwhile, Norman Powell finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
Detroit Pistons 107 vs Miami Heat 113
Jerami Grant, forward, Detroit Pistons
When discussing the candidates for the Most Improved Player award thus far this season, Grant might possibly be the leader in the clubhouse. He continued what has been a career year so far, recording 27 points, six assists and four rebounds. He started the game off hot by scoring 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field in the first quarter. He has now scored at least 20 points in all but one game this season.
Wayne Ellington, guard, Detroit Pistons
Ellington put on a shooting exhibition, scoring 24 points in the game on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. All seven of his field goals came from the three-point line making over half of his team’s three-point shots. He shot 3-of-5 from the field in the first quarter and a perfect 3-of-3 from the field in the fourth quarter, scoring nine points in each quarter.
Miami Heat’s young core
This is referring to Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn. Adebayo led his team in scoring with 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and five assists. Robinson finished with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting with all of his shots coming from three-point range. Kendrick Nunn came off the bench to score 18 points along with five rebounds and three assists.
Houston Rockets 120 vs Chicago Bulls 125
Victor Oladipo, guard, Houston Rockets
In his debut with the Houston Rockets, Oladipo played a stellar game. He finished with 32 points connecting on four three-pointers along with nine assists and five rebounds. After a slow first quarter scoring just three points, he went on to score 12 points in the second quarter and 17 points in the second half.
Christian Wood/Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
Christian Wood, another Most Improved Player nominee, continued his stellar season by recording 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go with nine rebounds. This included scoring 10 points in the second quarter and 11 points in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Eric Gordon finished with 21 points en route to tying his season high.
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Zach LaVine, guard, Chicago Bulls
After a disastrous 1-of-10 shooting night against the Dallas Mavericks, LaVine bounced back by shooting 11-of-16 from the field and finishing with 33 points along with seven assists and four rebounds. This included a 20-point second half and a 13-point third quarter.
Rest of Chicago Bulls Starters
Each of the Bulls’ four remaining starters each scored in double figures in the game. Lauri Markkanen led the pack with 18 points and seven rebounds followed by Garrett Temple with 13 points. Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White each scored 10 points with Carter adding eight rebounds.
Los Angeles Lakers 113 vs Golden State Warriors 115
Dennis Schroder, guard, Los Angeles Lakers
In a rare game that neither LeBron James nor Anthony Davis led the team in scoring, Dennis Schroder paced the Lakers with 25 points along with five rebounds. He started off hot, scoring 14 points in the first quarter on 5-of-7 shooting.
Montrezl Harrell, forward, Los Angeles Lakers
Montrezl Harrell finished the game with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting with eight rebounds and two blocks. He shot 6-of-6 in the first half, scoring 12 points. That included eight points in the second quarter.
Eric Paschall, forward, Golden State Warriors
While Stephen Curry deserves praise for his play in the second half that led to the Warriors win, Paschall played a huge role in the Warriors’ win off the bench. Paschall scored 19 points on a super efficient 8-of-11 shooting. This includes scoring nine points in the second quarter and eight points in the fourth quarter.
Andrew Wiggins/Kelly Oubre, forwards, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors may not have won this game had it not been for Kelly Oubre and Andrew Wiggins who have so far struggled starting this season. Oubre scored 23 points along with two steals and two blocks while Wiggins added 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting.